Edge International


The Path to Partnership in Small to Mid-sized Firms

The Path to Partnership in Small to Mid-sized Firms

If you are a partner in a U.S. law firm with fewer than 200 lawyers, think for a moment of how your current group of senior associates with eight to nine years of experience got to the brink of partnership. Then reflect on who their contemporary associates were at five years of experience.  Many will have departed, voluntarily or otherwise. Do you wish that some of those associates were now partnership candidates? Are some of your remaining candidates under consideration by default? Do you have a plan for those who will not make partner in the next two years? We see many firms that do not have good answers to these questions. They have not been managing the “path to partnership” effectively.

Large firms, with recruiting and professional development staffs and personnel committees, have developed some excellent practices that can be borrowed without large investments in support staff.  Those firms are not perfect. They still hold on to productive associates who they know will not make partner. Nevertheless, these are some of their best practices that can work for you:

Managing the path to partnership is not an overwhelming job. Partners in mid-sized and smaller firms can adopt some excellent large-firm practices. They will need some outside help and training, plus some annual time investment. Compared to the cost of losing the associates who could have been your star partners, the investment is modest.

David Cruickshank

Edge Principal advises firms on growth strategies and lateral integration programs. In addition to being a lawyer with a master’s from Harvard Law School and an LLB from the University of Western Ontario, he is a trained mediator who has taught at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine Law School. He frequently trains partners and associates on management skills like delegation, feedback, managing up and career development.  His interactive courses are now online.